A Climate of Hostility

A spate of attacks on synagogues across Europe has led to tighter security measures on Jewish institutions and has sparked fears that violence my be imported from the Middle East to Europe.
Petrol bombs were hurled at a synagogue in Antwerp on Wednesday, marking the latest in a spate of attacks on Jewish institutions across Europe.

Around 20, 000 Jews live in the city, Belgium’s second largest Jewish community.

The attack occurred amid a backdrop of increasing violence in the Middle East.

Over the weekend, the doors of a sysnagogue in Strasbourg were destroyed in a fire, a synagogue in Marseille was burnt to the ground and in Lyon another was rammed by two cars which were then set alight.

Officials believe the escalating Middle East conflict has led to fresh hostility towards Jewish communities in Europe.

Attack in Berlin sparks concern

In Berlin, two Jews were mugged on Sunday by a group of men police believed were Arabs. The two New Yorkers were attacked on one of Berlin’s busiest shopping streets after visiting a synagogue. One of the victims suffered facial wounds and needed treatment in hospital.

The attack has sparked fear in Germany that tension in the Middle East will trigger a fresh wave of anti-Semitism and violence on Jewish institutions in the country.

Interior Minister Otto Schily said he had no concrete evidence that attacks were being planned in Germany, but that federal and local governments were alert all the same.

"Naturally we are doing everything to assure the safety of Jewish and Israeli fellow citizens and their institutions", he said.

Schily added he had asked state authorities to step up protection of Jews and Jewish sites following the France and Belgium attacks.

The statement followed a call by a leading member of Germany's Jewish community to increase protection.

Michael Friedman, vice-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the conflict in the Middle East was a matter for Israel and the Arab countries to resolve and was no excuse for anti-Semitism.

"To extend this to include all Jews shows the true, grotesque face of fanatical Islamists, who see Judaism as public enemy number one," Friedman said.

EU: Rise in anti-Semitic attacks since Sept. 11

The European Union's European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia said it had recorded a rise in attacks on Jewish communities in Europe, but said this followed the September 11 attacks and was unrelated to any Middle East violence.

However, as the French daily Le Figaro voiced concern that France may become "an annex of the battleground in the Middle East", so too are fears rising that further violence may be imported to the other parts of the European continent.